The Salvation Army and #Workfare Controversy

To be upfront, I didn’t know what the issue was with the government Workfare scheme. I’ve not really been interested in this until this morning, when I read Johnny Void’s provocatively entitled post: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (unless thou is the Salvation Army fibbing about workfare).

Void’s post alleges the Salvation Army continuous to use Workfare workers and he links to a rather grim story in the Daily Record (Scotland). Void also links to a Jobcentre referral to Mandatory Work Activity letter (dated 17th Jan) which clearly cites the venue as an Salvation Army shop.

I spoke briefly with Void and he Tweeted:

So, where to start with finding out about Workfare; Wikipedia of course:

Workfare in the United Kingdom refers to government workfare policies whereby individuals must undertake work in return for their benefit payments or risk losing them. Workfare policies are politically controversial. Supporters argue that such policies help people move off of welfare and into employment (See welfare-to-work) whereas critics argue that they are analogous to slavery and counterproductive in decreasing unemployment.

OK, where too next, Twitter of course, and the link given by a couple of folk was on the Boycott Workfare website, which I’ll let you read, but I will cite their raison d’etre:

Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

Bernadette Meaden kindly linked to Public Interest Lawyers who are challenging the government’s Workfare program in the courts on behalf of their clients.

BoycottWelfare Tweeted me directly:

The Boycott Workfare link is well worth reading; it very clearly sets out their objections to Charity Workfare. Here’s a quote:

By colluding with the government to increase the number of benefit sanctions charities are pushing vulnerable people further into poverty and destitution. Oxfam have refused to take part in workfare because they say it is incompatible with the goal of reducing poverty in the UK. When homelessness charity SHP left the Work Programme earlier this year they warned that sanctions were pushing vulnerable individuals further into poverty and leaving them with little option but to beg and steal. The increase in benefit sanctions is one of the reasons that we are seeing an increase in the use of food banks.

OK, so where are we?

Workfare is a highly controversial and contentious issue, so much so, that some big highstreet names and charities have very publicly suspended their involvement in the Workfare program.

The evidence suggests that the Salvation Army are involved in the scheme at some level, so what is the Sally Army’s formal response:

There is no mandatory voluntary work for the three sub contracts we deliver within the Work Programme. Anyone who volunteers their services to us does so in the knowledge that their benefits will not be affected.

We do not have any national agreements in place to provide mandatory 4-week work placements, but on a local level we are aware that our trading company has been approached by independent welfare to work providers which have been offering short-term work experience, locally, in some of our retail shops. We must stress that no placements are in place of paid work and we trust the decision of our local representatives to provide valuable professional experience.

We don’t take people in short-term placements for work that would otherwise be paid as we believe in empowering the person who is volunteering, by treating them with the respect that everyone in society is due. We believe strongly that every person has worth, irrespective of what they can offer society and it is our desire to help all who are willing to work, irrespective of their starting point. For some, the route to employment can be a long one with several milestones on the way.

Working in stages back into the workplace helps to build confidence as a lack of confidence is one of the overriding barriers to work. We believe that it is important that people on long term benefits ‘test’ themselves in the workplace, to gain work experience without any threat of losing benefit or having to start the process again.

It is sensible to partner with the private and voluntary sector to provide many of the programmes, not because the work will be done ‘on the cheap’ but because better value will be achieved by the flexibility of our sector to tailor programmes to individual need and achieve better results. We have the expertise and broad working base to help achieve effective outcomes.

How does this read to you? For me, I am left with absolutely no idea whether the Salvation Army participates in the Workfare scheme or not.

Whether you be for, or against, Workfare, it would strike me the prudent move as a Christian organisation, with such an morally explosive issue, would be to withdraw from the scheme and publicly state as much. Otherwise, you might just find yourself on the receiving end of responses such as this:

I have Tweeted the Salvation Army direct:

I’ll let you know if I receive a response.

UPDATE: Three Tweets received from BoycottWorkfare which really cast the Salvation Army in a poor light in regard to this issue:

 

 

Oh dear!

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21 Responses to “The Salvation Army and #Workfare Controversy”

  1. Goy Says:

    The mandatory element of workfare with threat of sanction to subsistence is the coehersion of a person into a state of slavery. Of this I have no doubts whatsoever and would applaud any future criminal prosecutions.

    The fact that the welfare bondage was enforced under a christian banner should not make them immune from any future criminal prosecutions.

  2. Catherine vR Says:

    It is not simply the enforcement of workfare that is problematic. People are expected to work a full week’s work simply to retain their JSA of around £70 a week. That means that they are working at a fraction of minimum wage level. This undercuts people on low incomes, and there are already incidents of individuals being made redundant from their jobs only to find themself rehired at the same place under workfare. It is work on the cheap that undercuts wages and hard fought-for workers’ rights. Workfare is cheap labour.

  3. Peter D Says:

    It is a difficult area… Of which I confess, like you I am rather confused by the conflicting information received. As someone who actually found his career via Thatcher’s ‘Youth Opportunities Programme’ (YOP) in 1981/2 working as a carer at Leonard Cheshire Home (where on reflection, I was used as a source of cheap labour – but that was because of a combination of me wanting to please and rather suspect local management, as opposed to any policy initiative on the part of the charity as a whole), I am certainly not averse to unemployed people being given work experience. Certainly in my case, as someone who left school aged 16, in 1980, with a handful of CSEs and poor employment prospects, living in a northern mill town that was sinking deeper and deeper into economic and social decline, where unemployment was high and there was a surfeit of unemployed, YOP kept me in the routine of work. I think the scheme gave me £10 above the dole (which was then £26 for someone aged 16-18) and paid my expenses (travel and lunch costs – I seem to remember having a pay packet of around £42 week (which, using the ‘Measuring Worth’ website
    (http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/relativevalue.php) I am surprised to learn is the monetary equivalent of between £112 to £225 a week today depending upon which index is used to compare the spending power of £42 in 1982 with today’s values… – which perhaps demonstrates what a lot is being asked of people on workfare, given they only receive £70). And I can say that there were friends and acquaintances of mine from the time who have never, in their entire lives, remained in active employment for more than a few months. The habit of working is a good thing. And let’s face it, many people fight tooth and nail for internships, which amount to the same thing (and for which there is often no remuneration) which have received similar criticisms.

    The problems come when cheap or free labour is being used to do a job someone else could be doing, as Catherine notes above. And of course when charities, particularly a ‘Christian’ charity may be replacing voluntary or paid staff with workfare placements, where the charity will get some remuneration for taking part in the scheme. The Salvation Army has a long history of working with secular governments – in the UK around 80% of the income of its social work charity comes from the taxpayer in some shape or form (not as much as Leeds Catholic Care, but we won’t go there…). In the USA the Salvation Army’s turnover is around $3.2 BILLION – 57% of this money comes from donation (whereas in the UK only 11.3% of its income comes from donation) – tho’ there is also ‘indirect’ income from government – such as schemes whereby the SA uses ‘volunteers’ who are in reality people serving their community services in SA homeless feeding centres.
    (See: http://national.use-salvationarmy.org/SA_Annuals/TSA_Annual2012.pdf
    http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityWithPartB.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=215174&SubsidiaryNumber=0)

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of workfare – I think we need to exorcise any idea that large – including almost all faith-based – charities are replete with pious types enacting philanthropy for the sake of philanthropy. They are businesses – profits aren’t made from them as such, but still people, particularly at board room level, make a nice living out the work they do (tho’ the ones actually getting their hands dirty are often paid at little above or the same as minimum wage). But the main beneficiary of faith-based welfare in particular is the image of religion – an image that would be greatly diminished if the faithful really paid the actual cost and did the hands-on work (for anyone, regardless of belief, can work for most FBOs at hands on level – a necessary requirement, otherwise the jobs wouldn’t be filled! Too few of the faithful (regardless of religion – e.g. Jewish Care has few if any Jews doing the actual hands-on care work in its residential homes and home care services) are willing to work for low pay in low status jobs – we find the bulk of believers in the boardroom as senior managers and directors or in the role of trustees). At the end of the day, he who pays the piper, calls the tune – and many FBOs are content to dance to whatever tune is played to get their hands on government cash and raise the public profile of religion far beyond what it would be if these charities relied on the faithful for funding and the doing of the hands-on work. Moreover there is no qualitative evidence that FBOs provide services that are any better than other voluntary or even state provided services – there are good and bad in all sectors.

    (By the way I have worked for three faith based organisations (two Christian and one Jewish) and my PhD looks at the relationship between large scale FBOs, the state and their respective faith communities – so before anyone makes any disparaging remarks about my comments above, bear in mind, I have certainly put in the spade work, when it comes to researching faith based social welfare – in both the UK and the USA!)

  4. Sarah Says:

    Hi, I have been following the Salvation Army’s participation of work experience schemes (workfare) and was surprised to receive this reaction from them tonight. “our goal is about sustainable employment rather than just getting people into jobs”
    As a low-paid worker I would like to see evidence of how they think workfare and their participation of it is allowing employment to be sustainable. I would rather see money given to small businesses to promote growth and paid positions for people seeking employment.
    These schemes are a stagnant use of tax payers money and are deflecting any economic growth. I have asked the Salvation Army how much tax payers money they have received to enable them to achieve their “goal of sustainable employment rather than just getting people into jobs”? I would also like to know how many people the Salvation Army have employed following such placements. It is in the public interest to provide this information. As a worker, my rights are being reduced daily and I genuinely would like to know how someone that is threatened with sanctions for not attending a work experience placement is improving employment rights? I would also like to know how organisations like the Salvation Army are utilising this money and boosting the economy. Great Blog btw.

  5. Goy Says:

    Commissioner Silvia Cox launches new app to help people recognise the signs of human trafficking

    Would the Commissioner recognise that government workfare agencies, contractors and subcontractors could be open to the criminal charge of human trafficking.

    Human trafficking is the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. First and foremost, human trafficking is a crime against humanity.

    Source: UNODC/Home Office

  6. clive lord Says:

    Means testing is the key to the workfare scandal See my blog
    clivelord.wordpress.com

  7. Steve Says:

    The letter is fudge, like everything else to do with this coalition and it was against sick and disabled people, in fact anyone that is weak.

  8. Goy Says:

    ‘LTB’s: The insulting label for disabled, jobless

    On paper, Linda Smith’s job with an Aberdeen company was straight-forward – she was meant to be helping the long-term unemployed – many of them disabled – to find jobs and move off benefits.

    The reality, she said, was a corporate culture that saw staff in training sessions referring to those same people as LTBs – code for “lying, thieving bastards”.

  9. There’s No Pay At The Y-M-C-A!* | the void Says:

    [...] The above quote is from Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and one of a growing number of  voices in the Church condemning this Government’s obsession with unpaid … [...]

  10. jeffery davies Says:

    reading some of the comments its the working part that affects thos in wrag who aint supposed to work at all and that aint good enough that the sa is helpinh the torys with htis nah they affecting the outcome of people finding jobs and that ain t right by anyones standerds ,as we now cheap labour as for th prof findings when is it right to get some on to this scheme is a no no taking them when the doctors say no and this lot say ya ,ive never seen a more evil lot thatn this corrupt goverment and cant even say that been alive seen a few in offce the last 60yrs and not one are hardly truthfull and honest in their ways all out to take and keep thier hands in the till no when will we have a honest goverment who rule with compassion and not hate towards those who are ill sick or disabled not bullied into these schemes where cheap laobour is were they make us go for charitys who take you but then whens a charity if it can take slaves this is not one but then a slave market so sa money you hope to get will be a lot less going into that pot you thought to get from those below nah look else were as now even the poor will not put into that pot jeff3

  11. Alastair Says:

    I can confirm that Salvation Army are using forced labour, i received a letter today stating i must work for them 40 hours a week, I have not signed on before in my 32 years on this planet and was proud of that but I lost my job. I was told I had to do mandatory work or loose my benefits, I told them what I thought about that and was told I have no choice or will loose bennefits, it states in the literature that the job doesn’t need to be to do with my career, it is purely to make me be on time, work under supervision, hold down the job. If I fail to meet any of those criteria I will loose my bennefits…. While doing this month of work I will be classed by the government as employed which massages their employment figures as looks like they are reducing employment, I still have to sighn on though, even though though I am working 9 – 430 I am to make up that time, I’m assuming by working Saturdays as no time left in the week. I am very angry, I feel used and people are getting paid to use me, there is no job at the end and this will not add to my job prospects, oh and I’m still expected to spend the rest of the time job searching. Angry in fact is an understatement.

  12. Goy Says:

    Back-to-work scheme breached laws, says Court of Appeal

    Moral collapse and human trafficking just how low have the British sunk?

    From day one it was clear that the DWP mandatory work activity programs constituted forms of slavery and forced labour. How did it come to this, what blinded what were once respected charities to become complicit in welfare bondage and the slave trade of (DWP) mandatory work activity??

    The judicial door has now been pushed open to the possibility of criminal prosecutions for those whom volunteered to get their hands dirty in administering the forced labour of mandatory work activity.

  13. Sarah Says:

    So pleased to see today’s verdict. The Salvation Army should be well and truly ashamed to have been taking part in any of this.

  14. Alastair Says:

    What does this mean? Do I need to start my forced unpaid slave labour at the Salvation Army on the 19th of February?

  15. Charities using forced labour supplied by the DWP | Welfare Sorrows Says:

    [...] Salvation Army has tried to backtrack on the forced labour issue by referring to its voluntary nature. Let’s be very clear about [...]

  16. Goy Says:

    A new churches’ report shows how evidence and statistics have been misused, misrepresented and manipulated to create untruths that stigmatise poor people, welfare recipients and those in receipt of benefits.

    The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty.

  17. Clive Lord Says:

    I repeat , workfare is nasty, but what makes it look reasonable to anybody not trapped in it, is the principle of means testing. Please see my blog
    http://www.clivelord.wordpress.com
    Reports are necessary, but they will be ineffectual until this aspect is tackled.

  18. jamesd Says:

    Alastair wroteI can confirm that Salvation Army are using forced labour, i received a letter today stating i must work for them 40 hours a week, I have not signed on before in my 32 years on this planet and was proud of that but I lost my job. I was told I had to do mandatory work or loose my benefits, I told them what I thought about that and was told I have no choice or will loose bennefits, it states in the literature that the job doesn’t need to be to do with my career, it is purely to make me be on time, work under supervision, hold down the job. If I fail to meet any of those criteria I will loose my bennefits…. While doing this month of work I will be classed by the government as employed which massages their employment figures as looks like they are reducing employment, I still have to sighn on though, even though though I am working 9 – 430 I am to make up that time, I’m assuming by working Saturdays as no time left in the week. I am very angry, I feel used and people are getting paid to use me, there is no job at the end and this will not add to my job prospects, oh and I’m still expected to spend the rest of the time job searching. Angry in fact is an understatement.

    Absolutely Appalling

    The Salvation Army should hang their heads in shame

  19. John Says:

    I am ashamed the SA is involved in this.

    See also this article from the Daily Record and another example of SA using forced labour.
    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/i-was-told-unpaid-placement-was-for-work-experience-1480978

  20. Rainbow Warrior Lizzie Says:

    When I was a child and growing up I was brought up the Christian way and happily involved, helped and supported the Sally Army as we they were to us. And since then led to respcet the Sally Army and their good Christian work in helping the sick, disabled, poor, homeless, weak and lowly. But then I found out that the wrongs of workfare and I am now ashamed to know that the Salvation Army is now involved in this workfare slave labour so-called “volunteering”

    No matter how many times to dress this up, no matter how many times you deleted comments. You will have to Stand before the LORD and explain how you as a charity have plunged these so-called “volunteers” further into Poverty, Homelesssness which is what you as a Christian Charity meant to help those in Need!!

    A new churches’ report shows how evidence and statistics have been misused, misrepresented and manipulated to create untruths that stigmatise poor people, welfare recipients and those in receipt of benefits.

    The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty

    ‘But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresis, even denying the souvereign LORD who brought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves. (2 Peter 2:1 NIV)

    ‘There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.
    What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in your inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roof tops. (Luke 12: 2-3 NIV)

    In the name of the LORD our Father AMEN

  21. Charis Says:

    I must say I really enjoyed reading your inquisitive and impartial approach to this. It has been refreshing to read given the brick walls many of us have hit in attempting to find facts and discuss it openly with particularly members of the Salvation Army. I would like to point you to a few more resouces, which you may find helpful in seeking answers:
    http://base-uk.org/about/members/salvation-army
    The salvation army has admitted to being involved in workfare, but refuses to acknowledge it as workfare and uses its other names for the particular schemes. The link is showing the company they have set up in relation to ‘getting people to work’. My apologies, as I had a link, which I cannot find at present, to some interesting information stating that the SA are not only using workfare placements in their charity shops, but acting as a supplier for the government under the cover of training, yet many people who have attended such ‘training’ or ‘work experience’ through them, have not received much if any of either. I would like you to take a moment to look at a facebook group linked below created purely as a place for people banned from the salvation army page for simply asking questions and stating facts. I know this as I happened to be one of them, banned for asking clarification of their involvement of government schemes and their sucess rate, as well as stating that, although as they said to me they do not consider people working for them to be slavery, as they are not creating any force themselves, they are accepting them as workers sent from the jobcentres, who will not pay their benefits if they do not attend ie IT IS MANDATORY on threat of destitution. This in my eyes and the is contrary to the following:

    The 1926 Convention’s definition of slavery was broadened to include forced or compulsory labor in 1930 in the ILO Convention (No. 29) concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (article 2.1):

    “…all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”

    hence it is considered by opposition to the scheme to be slavery and justifiably so.

    The SA have tried many tactics to conceal their involvement with the workfare schemes including hidding behind the fact that they run other schemes, which are not desputed and use their success as an arguement for continuation, although refuse to clarify what they consider as ‘success’. They have 7 examples of stories of people they have helped on their page (or did last I looked though they removed the page at one point) and this was for some time their justification. I pointed out that thousand of sick and disabled people have died as a result of being declared fit to work by ATOS, which then makes them legible to be forced into these workfare places. I also pointed out that the government success rate for the scheme has been below 4% (3.6 ish I think, though have forgotten where I read the exact figure), and it is well published that they admit they have failed to meet their 5% goal. It has also been well documented that the stress and hardship created by this scheme and the worry about being placed and its mandatory nature is destroying lives, not to mention the lives destroyed through sanction. I asked the SA if they believed that their 7 people, or the 4% success rate justified the thousands of deaths and destruction that go hand in hand with them, but they declined to answer and instead blocked me from the page and ignored my email. I have always remained polite in my comments to them, have asked simple straight forward questions and even said I was willing to await a private reply if they did not have the answers immediately, however, I would appreciate an acknowledgement that they intended to respond, and answer came there none.

    I believe that the fact that they are avoiding answering any questions on the matter, only fuels the arguement, that they are aware that what they are doing is wrong. If I believe in something, I would maintain my innocence and explain it when asked. I would support my claim with the figures I would gather to show my point of view. I would answer direct questions.

    Many people have provided them links to articles and stories of how the scheme destroys lives, yet they are not interested. I at no point even asked them to stop using workfare, though I did ask them not to use false claims to support their actions. Here is the group, which contains many links that you may find helpful in your search.

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Banned-by-the-Salvation-Army-over-Workfare-related-comments/231017033703940

    Here is another, useful site in explaining, if nothing else, how many schemes fall under the workfare and why companies are using that to try and say they are not involved in one partiular scheme, omitting that they are involved in another.

    http://www.ourwelfare.co.uk/index.html

    I hope some of this is helpful to you
    peace be with you and please pray for those poor families and children who go hungry because of sanctions, or who lose loved ones through this evil government abuse

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